The Halton District School Board (HDSB) says the majority of buses transporting students will be equipped with cameras beginning this September.
In a note to parents and guardians sent out on Wednesday, the HDSB said the cameras are intended to provide “additional student safety” around incidents that occur on buses.
“The buses will be equipped with interior cameras which will record during loading times and while the bus is in transit,” said Roxana Negoi, superintendent for business services with the HDSB.
“School bus drivers will not have access to the images captured on the video.”
Negoi said personal information recorded by the video cameras is collected under the authority of the Education Act and in compliance with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).
The HDSB said parents and guardians should ensure that children are aware of the presence of the cameras on school buses.
Halton Student Transportation Services — the company that provides transportation services for the HDSB — said cameras have already been installed on some buses, but they have not been activated.
General Manager Karen Lacroix said 325 of the company’s 540 buses — which transport approximately 31,000 students daily — will be equipped with cameras.
Once the cameras are activated, Lacroix said her company would be in a position to provide video surveillance footage to school principals who might need it to investigate any incident on a school bus.
“There’s one adult on the bus and up to 65 students, sometimes even more. The bus will hold 72 passengers and the driver can’t [monitor them] if they’re concentrating on the road,” Lacroix said.
“They can’t see what’s going on behind them. So, if there’s a bullying situation, for example, and the driver doesn’t see it, they don’t know what happened. They aren’t able to provide any feedback to the principal.”
Some TDSB buses already equipped with cameras
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) already has a few buses equipped with cameras.
Kevin Hodgkinson, general manager of the Toronto Student Transportation Group, which oversees school buses for the TDSB and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), said the Toronto boards require that two per cent of the fleet be equipped with cameras.
“That equates to about 36 buses with cameras here in Toronto. The bus operators move those buses around as needed if they have issues on particular routes. With the driver concentrating on the road to ensure student safety, these cameras help provide a second set of eyes to monitor the bus,” Hodgkinson said in an email.
“Cameras have been found to be a calming effect for some students. If they know a camera is on board they tend to be more respectful and follow the school bus rules. In the event there are issues on the bus, the cameras can be used to help the school principal address student behaviour issues.”
Hodgkinson said cameras are also helpful to document if there are conflicts between students and the driver on the bus, or between parents and the driver at a stop.
He said there are no plans at this time to expand the number of buses currently equipped with cameras.
Meanwhile, Hodgkinson said the Toronto Student Transportation Group did a pilot several years ago with cameras on the stop signs that extend from the buses when children disembark. But he said the technology has come a long way and there are still a number of legislative and logistical issues to address before implementation.